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Mississippi River Float Walleyes

– By Roy Heilman

It was a long winter here in the Northland. I’m not sure it’s gone yet, though the calendar says spring has arrived. I could really go for some fresh fish. Unfortunately, lake ice lingers, and the fishing opener is weeks away.

So I’ve come to the Mississippi River, where the walleye season is continuous. A few bucks buys admission to a “fishing float,” which is essentially a giant raft parked just below one of the dams. The captain picks me up from the shore and zips me out to the float. With a little luck, I might return with enough fish for a dinner or two.

The guy on the float sells me a scoop of minnows, and I’m off and running. Since the current is strong, the offering is simple: minnow on a jig head, tossed to the bottom and retrieved.

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The river is really raging. It is soon obvious it will take every trick in the book to keep bait in the strike zone. I switch to the other rod already rigged with low-diameter braided line and tie on a heavier jig. My scissors—half of Smith’s Scissor and Plier Combo—is clipped to my bucket and always ready to snip off the tag ends. Another minnow is impaled and put into action.

It doesn’t take long to feel the first tug. The hookset feels good initially, but the jig pulls loose. A quick check reveals that the hook may be too dull.

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I root around in my backpack for my Diamond Retractable Sharpener. Made for serrated blades, hooks, knives, and other sharp edges, it comes in handy almost daily. A few pulls through the hook sharpener portion make the theme feel nice and “sticky” again. I re-bait and get back in the game.

The next time a fish takes my jig, there is no question it is hooked solidly. After a good fight, the eager minnow snatcher comes to hand. It is a beautiful golden walleye and an excellent start to the day. The hook is a little deep, however, and pliers are required. Good thing those are always close by.

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Since every walleye must be over 15 inches, I pull the Portable Fish Ruler out of my jacket pocket and unroll it on the deck. The official measurement comes to a little over 16 inches—definitely long enough to affix the fish to my stringer. Hopefully, it will soon have a companion.

Since the flexible ruler is wet, it goes into the Fish and Hunt tool bag. The bag’s mesh back allows wet objects to drain and dry. Plus, items keep from getting tangled or lost when contained.

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Having cast and jigged countless times (and lost the battle with a few snags), it feels like a change of pace is in order. Many other anglers have caught jumbo perch in the gentler current near the float. So, I deploy a slip rig and minnow on my mono-spooled rod and sit back.

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It seems the perch may also have called for a break in the action. After a fruitless 30 minutes, impatience grows too large to ignore. I switch back to casting jigs and minnows for my last hour on the float.

Midday action is slow all around. The bite has clearly cooled off, as other anglers aren’t having much luck either. I am rewarded for my efforts with another couple of nibbles and small walleyes that don’t make the minimum length. One keepable walleye is not the kind of jackpot I hoped for when I arrived, but it’s enough to break the winter blues tonight with a meal of Fish & Chips.

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Beer Battered Fish & Chips

A battered-and-fried way to enjoy walleye, perch, yellow or white bass, or northern pike. Choose a lager or IPA for a light, crisp batter, or something like a porter or stout for a darker, richer experience. Pair with hot steak fries, and serve with malt vinegar, mustard, or tartar sauce.


  • oil for frying
  • 1c. flour
  • 1tsp. baking powder
  • 1c. cold beer
  • 1lb. fish fillets, cut into finger-size strips
  • extra flour to coat fish

Mix flour and baking powder in a bowl, and whisk beer in. Pour enough oil into a pan for the fish to float, and heat it to 350 degrees. Dredge fish in flour, and shake off excess. Dip fish into batter and fry until golden. Turn once to achieve even browning of batter.


Smith’s Consumer Products is an Arkansas-based company that traces its history to 1886. Smith’s produces the broadest line of knife and scissors sharpeners available, ranging from simple, fixed angle pull-through sharpeners for consumers that want quick and easy sharpening to sophisticated Precision Kits designed for the knife sharpening enthusiast. Our offering includes both manual and electrical sharpeners that incorporate many different abrasive materials, including diamond, carbide, ceramic, bonded synthetic abrasives, and, of course, natural Arkansas stones. Smith’s Consumer Products designs products that are appropriate for the field or gourmet kitchen.

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